Dry socket is a painful complication that is associated with having a permanent tooth extracted. Most people do develop dry socket when the healing process of their extraction sites is interrupted and when blood clot does not form or is dislodged early leaving the bone and nerves exposed to air, food, fluid, and anything else that enters the mouth. Normally, after a tooth is pulled, blood clot usually form in the empty socket, providing protection to the bone and nerves underneath. In most cases, these blood clot can become dislodged or dissolve a couple of days after the extraction. This can eventually lead to infection and severe pain that can worsen and last for many days.
Well, it is not everyone that develops dry socket after undergoing a tooth extraction. In fact, only a small percentage of people (about 2 – 5%) develop dry socket after a tooth extraction. Dentists are not quite sure of what causes dry socket, but there are certain factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing it. People who have a history of dry socket, those that experienced greater-than-usual trauma during the tooth extraction surgery, women that use birth control pills and smokers are considered to be more likely to get dry socket after having a tooth pulled.
In addition, pre-existing infection that is present in the mouth prior to a dental extraction such as periodontal disease (periodontitis) can prevent proper formation of blood clot at the extraction site. Sucking through a straw, aggressive rinsing, spitting, or dragging on a cigarette can cause early dislodgement and loss of the blood clot, and will eventually raise your risk of developing dry socket.
How is dry socket identified?
If the extraction site is healing normally as supposed, the discomforts and pain should lessen over time. If by any chance the pain increases, then it can be an indication that healing is delayed and could possibly be due to a dry socket. Dry socket symptoms typically starts two to four days after a tooth extraction surgery. As more days passes, the symptoms can become more severe, the pain will radiate to your ear, neck and different parts of the face.
Well, a dentist or oral surgeon will likely suspect dry socket for any case of severe pain following a tooth extraction. Sometimes, radiographic examination (X-rays) might be recommended to rule out a bone infection, or to see if fragments of the bone or roots of the extracted tooth are causing the pain. (1) One of the common ways to identify dry socket is to check the visibility of the underlying bone and nerve endings at the extraction site.
When you look into the site where the tooth was pulled, if the socket is healing as supposed, you should see a dark blood clot covering the area. Partial or total loss of blood clot at the extraction site is a sign of dry socket. If you look at your extraction site and you see just a whitish bone underneath without a dark blood clot covering, then you have dry socket. The exposed bone will be visible, it may be partially covered with a gray layer of necrotic tissue or debris from food.
Dry socket healing time
The healing process of a dry socket takes about a week or more depending on how you managed the situation. A dry socket is not actually a serious complication unless it gets infected. Since the underlying bone and nerve endings are exposed, for the site to heal, the gum tissue needs to grow down the sides of the bony socket and seal off the exposed bone and nerves. If you are able to avoid smoking or tobacco use and also keep the socket clean and free from infections, your dry socket will heal on its own within 7 to 10 days.
An average dry socket healing time is 7 to 10 days, as this is the amount of time it takes for new tissue to grow to cover the exposed empty socket. Although, studies have shown that women during their menstrual period (menses) tend to experience longer dry socket healing time. Your dentist may need to prescribe some antibiotics to prevent the socket from being infected. Most dentists often recommend rinsing your mouth with warm saltwater or a special mouthwash every day for a whole week after the surgery.
In severe cases, if your extraction socket gets more painful and doesn’t seem to be healing after a week, you should see your dentist. Your dentist will clean the tooth socket, removing any debris from the hole, and then fill the socket with a medicated dressing or a special paste to cover the exposed bone and promote healing.